Michigan Eager to Avenge Regular Season Finale Loss By Getting 11th Win

jon runyan jr. michigan left tackle

Michigan Eager to Avenge Regular Season Finale Loss By Getting 11th Win

Football

Michigan Eager to Avenge Regular Season Finale Loss By Getting 11th Win

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Given that in Jim Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor as head coach, Michigan will have played Florida as many times as it has Wisconsin in four years, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl matchup against the No. 10 Gators isn’t exactly a sexy matchup, but it will be a solid one.

Last year, the Wolverines eviscerated the Gators, 33-17, in a game that wasn’t even that close due to a handful of Michigan miscues. This year, however, it’s a different story. Under the guidance of former Miss. St. head coach Dan Mullen, the Gators are 9-3, and have a big win over LSU under their belt.

It’s a matchup that fourth-year left tackle Jon Runyan Jr. says he and his team are looking forward to.

“The SEC is regarded as one of the top conferences in the country, same as the Big Ten,” Runyan said. “Every time you get a chance to play an SEC school, regardless of who it is, it’s awesome. They’ve got kind of a different style. They’re a lot more faster – they’re big and fast, too. Just playing against Florida, awesome opportunity. Looking forward to it. Everyone’s getting ready. We got a nice workout. Everybody’s pumped up. We were texting the O-line group when we got the notification that we were going (to play) Florida. Everybody’s excited to go get after it.”

Whether or not it moves the fan needle doesn’t take away from the big matchup. Michigan may be 4-0 against Florida, but should the Wolverines win on Dec. 29 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, it would give the maize and blue their first 11-win season under Harbaugh, and the first since 2011, when the program beat Va. Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

Runyan was in the game last year played between the two foes in the Advocare Classic in Arlington, Tex., and while many of the players remain the same, he expects to see a much different defensive front compared to last year.

“I think they have a new defensive coordinator this year, so kind of a new scheme this year,” Runyan said. “But I know they’ve got some big, quick, twitchy guys on the defensive line. I’m excited going in there. It’s my third time playing Florida, but second time actually on the field against them. I’m just really looking forward to playing against them, getting our 11th win.”

Ultimately, given where the Wolverines were just a week and a half ago — sitting at No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings, a foregone conclusion to be included in the big dance — it’s easy to dismiss a game like this one as a consolation prize.

Michigan rattled off 10 straight wins with an eye on the higher aspirations, but after being derailed in Columbus, it’s easy to eschew the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. It wasn’t like this team clawed its way into a New Year’s Six bowl game. While pundits before the season expected the Wolverines to struggle based of the previous year’s 8-5 record, Runyan and others knew what the maize and blue had in the locker room.

The loss to Ohio State took everything away, and while that’s a disappointment, this Michigan team is determined not to let the same team beat it twice. A win in a New Year’s Six bowl still means something, and beating Florida, once again, would set the stage for a Wolverines offense that potentially returns all but two players in 2019.

“That motivation’s there from that loss that we took,” Runyan said. “You never want to go into next season with a sour taste in your mouth. I remember, my first start last year was in the bowl game against South Carolina. Playing against them, taking that loss and then going into the 2018 season – that really hurt. I got good game experience there, and it was nice having that under my belt and taking that motivation and what it takes to play in this season that just happened.

“Hopefully come out with a W. We’re feeling good about ourselves coming into 2019 and spring ball.”

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